Women have faced discrimination on the basis of gender since ancient times. Considered as the weaker sex, women have been thought as emotional and fragile. Moreover, women had to fight for their right in every aspect of their lives. From fighting for the right to vote to right to education and equal status in jobs with equal pay. However, over the time, some extraordinary women have emerged who challenged the patriarchy system and fought for their rights. These women slapped right on the face of stereotypes and misconception of the society and fought misogyny. Most importantly, these women empowered other women and proved that women are not weak, but, equal to men. So, this article highlight the ten women who changed the world.
Catherine The Great
Born in the royal kingdom of Prussia, now Poland, on May 2, 1729, Catherine the Great has marked the pages of history with her greatness. She became the Empress of all Russia in the year 1762 and remained on the throne till 1796. Therefore, she became the country’s first and only longest ruling female. The most interesting thing about her reign is that she led a bloodless coup of fourteen thousand soldiers in order to over throw her husband and second cousin, Peter III. During her reign, Russia grew and flourished. Moreover, her reigning period, also known as Catherinian era, became the Golden age of Russia. She died due to stroke on November 17, 1796.
Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, born on August 19, 1883, was a fashion designer and businesswoman. Born in France, she became popular during the world war I with her sporty and chic designs, replacing the corseted silhouette. She became a prolific fashion designer as she extended her designer domains beyond couture clothing. Therefore, using her designer aesthetic in jewelry, handbags, and fragrance. Chanel became a prominent and most influential figure in the twentieth century. She changed the perspective of women as how they viewed themselves rather than how the society viewed themselves. She died in her hotel room, Hotel Ritz, on January 10, 1971 due to old age.
Born on February 4, 1913, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, came to be called ‘the first lady of civil rights’ by the US Congress. She became the mother of the freedom movement, popularly known for the major role she played in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She rejected the order of the bus driver as he asked her to vacate the ‘colored’ section seat for a ‘white’ passenger. Parks inspired the black people community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year. She fought for racial equality in other right movements throughout her life. She died on October 24, 2005, due to natural causes at the age of ninety-two.
The remarkable woman, Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Alabama, America. She lost the ability to see and hear due to an illness at a very young age of nineteen months. When she turned seven, she met her first teacher, Anne Sullivan, who later became her life-long companion. She learned to read and write, as well as she learned the Tadoma method of understanding the speech of other people. Of the time, she became the first deafblind to obtain a degree in arts from Harvard’s Radcliffe College. She also worked as a disability rights advocate, political activist, lecturer and authored fourteen books and numerous essays. Her story became famous with her autobiography, The Story Of My Life.
The Indian writer and mental calculator, Shakuntala Devi was born on November 4, 1929, in Karnataka, India. She was famously known as “Human Computer”, as without any proper education, she could solve arithmetic problems in her mind. In the 1982 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records, her achievement earned a place. She challenged the stereotypical society who had the misconception that women cannot learn mathematics. She proved herself and empowered so many females who have the potential to do something in the field. Moreover, she wrote numerous books on mathematics, puzzles and astronomy.
Noor Inayat Khan
We have read a lot about the men who spied on the activities of the enemy country. But what we do not know is that, not only men, but number of women also worked as a remarkable spies during the time of wars. One of which is Noor Inayat Khan, born on January 1, 1914 in Moscow, Russia. As the world war I began, her family left Russia and came to UK. She had Indian-Muslim father and American mother. After the death of her father, she took the responsibilities of the family and joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and became the first female wireless operator to be sent from the UK into occupied France. However, she was arrested and finally executed in the Dachau Concentration Camp along with other SOE officers.
Billie Jean King
Winner of thirty-nine Grand Slams-twelve in singles, sixteen in women’s doubles, and eleven in mixed doubles and former world’s number 1 tennis player. Billie Jean King was born on November 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California. Regarded as one of the greatest tennis player of all times, King has been an advocate for gender equality and social justice. She has founded the Women’s Tennis Association and theWomen’s Sports Foundation. She marked her name in the field where men dominated. Moreover, she has inspired a lot of young girls and women to explore this field. Although retired, presently she trains women’s tennis team or inner city school kids.
The Queen of all media and the richest African-American of the twentieth century. Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi to an unmarried teenage mother. She has had a very troublesome childhood. She was molested and became pregnant at the tender age of 14. However, the child could not survive and died due to premature birth. While still in high-school, she got a job at a radio show. Her experience and emotional nature led to success as she soon launched her own production company and gained international popularity. This American talk show host, producer and philanthropist became the most influential person of the twenty-first century and ranked as the greatest black philanthropist in American history.
Diana Frances Spencer, born on July 1, 1961, became the Princess Diana of Wales upon her marriage to the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles of Wales. She took upon the duties of the queen and began representing her at numerous functions and celebrations. She soon become beloved of all people, all over the world, due to her unorthodox approach towards charitable works. Princess Diana became famous for her involvement with the HIV patients and her campaign for the removal of landmines. Moreover, she helped raise awareness about cancer and mental illness. However, her death in a car crash, on August 31,1997 in Paris, left the people in deep mourning. Although her legacy has left a great impact on the public as well as the Royal Family.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles
This American singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer became popular in the late 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, biggest girl group of the time. Born on September 4, 1981, in Houston, Texas, have won over four hundred awards in the field of music. She has been a part of many campaigns and consider herself as feminist. She is the most nominated woman for Grammy Awards and has the second highest number of wins, with the total number of twenty four. Beyoncé became the most powerful and influential woman in the entertainment industry.
Apart from these extraordinary women, a special mention to the begums of Bhopal (India), is worth it. As we talk about the women who went against the misogyny and patriarchy, there was an era, in nineteenth century, in Bhopal, India, when only women ruled for over a century. These inspirational figures, defied and fought prejudices, chauvinism and norms of a male-dominated society and created their own destiny. They even played an important role in the state’s politics as these four women together ruled for more than one-hundred and seven years. Their reign began with Qudsia Begum (1819-37) from 1819, followed by Sikandar Begum (1847-68), Shahjehan Begum (1868-1901) and Sultan Jahan Begum (1901-26).
Therefore, these women have changed the course of time and has set an example for each and every women out there that nothing is impossible. You just need to have the patience and courage to stand up for yourself and your fellow females. Women are no less than men, and these women have challenged the patriarchy over and over again. Apart from these, there are numerous women who have helped to change the world for us to live in.